by Talek HARRIS / AFP
TOKYO – Japan’s Sakura Yosozumi won the women’s park competition to maintain the hosts’ stranglehold on Olympic skateboarding on Wednesday and stop Kokona Hiraki and Sky Brown becoming the Games’ youngest-ever gold medallists.
The 19-year-old opened the final with a flowing run featuring two 540s, with her 60.09 points proving enough for victory ahead of teammate Hiraki, 12, and Brown, 13.
“This medal feels unreal — it feels like a dream,” said Yosozumi, as she celebrated at a sun-baked Ariake Urban Sports Park on Tokyo Bay.
“I hope skateboarding is going to be very popular in Japan because of the strong performances of the Japanese team,” she said, adding: “Now I want to go back home and eat some delicious food.”
Despite missing the title Hiraki, who scored 59.04, achieved the rare feat of winning an Olympic medal before her 13th birthday — the first to do so since French rower Noel Vandernotte in 1936.
Japan-born Brown, who became Britain’s youngest Olympic medallist, threatened to snatch a dramatic win with a flawless closing routine but she was awarded 56.47 points to take bronze.
“It was unbelievable,” Brown said of her medal-winning run. “Even right now it feels like a dream. It’s insane.
“I’m so happy and so thankful and so proud of every one of the other girls, too.”
There was heartbreak for world number one Misugu Okamoto, who missed a medal when she fell on all three runs in the final to finish fourth.
Japan also snapped up the men’s and women’s street titles and they have bagged five of the nine medals so far as skateboarding makes its Olympic bow.
Skateboarding is one of four debut sports aimed at reaching new audiences and in an ultra-young field, only eight of the 20 competitors were out of their teens. The podium had a combined age of 44.
Both Brown, at 13 years and 28 days, and Hiraki (12 years and 343 days) were bidding to break an 85-year-old record to become the youngest champions in Olympic history.
They had a shot at bettering American diver Marjorie Gestring, who won 3m springboard gold aged 13 years and 268 days at the 1936 Games in Berlin.
For Brown it completes a comeback just over a year after a horrific fall in training left her with skull fractures and a broken wrist and hand.
The accident would have ruled Brown, just 11 at the time, out of the 2020 Olympics if they had not been postponed for a year over the coronavirus pandemic.
“Everyone did amazing, everyone was doing so good, I’m so proud of everyone,” she said on Wednesday, paying tribute to her friend Yosozumi.
“Just being on the podium with my really good friend is just insane.”
Brown, born to a Japanese mother and a British father, opted to compete for Britain in 2019, saying the team offered a more relaxed approach.